They All Laughed (1981) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
12Feb/110

They All Laughed (1981)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny LIKEThey All Laughed is a sweet, breezy movie that tracks the romantic pairings of three private eyes over the course of a few days. It's a playful and coy film that never takes itself too seriously.

The camera's energy is mostly spent on John Russo (Ben Gazarra), an old pro and a impossible flirt. He's moving on from one lover (Colleen Camp as a country singer) to the next. Whether that's going to be a devilish taxi driver (Patti Hensen) or the latest client he's following (Audrey Hepburn) is a mystery... but I guess my image up top kind of spoils that one a bit.

Russo's an interesting character. Smug, smooth, and hurting underneath-- identical to the guy that Gazarra played in Bloodline, only in the right movie this time. He has two daughters, who mostly function to support their father through his romantic liaisons. We never see his ex-wife or learn why things fell apart, but from watching Russo, it's easy to see that it just got too real for him.

His and Hepburn's romance is the emotional core of the film, as she is escaping a troubled marriage and he's aware she's more special than she lets on. Their scenes are tender and playful, but both underscore their secret shared pains, and how age has made them unable to do much about it. That this love affair mirrors a real affair that they'd had off-screen prior to the making of this movie is probably not coincidental.

That sounds.... heavy.

If that sounds heavy, it's okay, that's just one of the stories the movie tells, and it's not even the central one. There's the boss of the detective agency, Leo, and his affair with the agency's lovely secretary. There's Art, the roller skating lady's man who is basically Russo without the introspection-- while Russo's past lovers give him a rueful smile, Art's have taken to chasing him around with a knife.

Lastly there's daffy Charles, played by John Ritter with absent minded charm. He's in love with a suspect that he's trailing (which goes to demonstrate that you really shouldn't hire this private detective agency) played by Dorothy Stratten with a lovely smile. Besides her husband, she's got a boyfriend in tow named Jose (Sean Ferrer) who is also kind of amiable. He doesn't speak much English, though he seems okay with it.

The tone and style of the movie feels remarkably complicated and intelligent, delicately balancing the stories, the characters, and their quirks. It also offers a romantic street view of New York City circa 1980, and while it's not exactly the Disney-fied paradise it's often shown as today, compared to the den of drugs and violence it was often portrayed as through the 1970's, this view is absolutely rosy.

But wait, there sure is a lot of country music in this movie...

There is one thing I really like about the movie that I wanted to point out as well, and that's that Bogdonavich spends most of the movie with an odd juxtaposition on the fringes. For the film's soundtrack, nearly all of the music chosen is Country Western, and oftentimes the lyrics to the songs clash with what's going on onscreen. It underlines the movie's playfulness and makes the one scene where the music does fit work all the better. (Hint: it's when one of the couples ends up together)

Hepburn's character is akin more to her dramatic work, though she does get in a few jibes. It's a pretty small and bittersweet role that reminded me a lot of her older stage in Two for the Road, though noticeably toned down. This film couldn't support Two's venom, but then this movie is so lightweight it couldn't stand up against a heavy breeze.

I feel bad for not mentioning the background and the sordid backstory of They All Laughed here, since its hurricane of publicity pretty much ruined this film's chances at the box office. The incestuous nature of the actors and the script for this film mirrors a real tragedy that occurred. I don't think it's exactly relevant to the movie, though, as the film probably works much better without the background knowledge here. If you're curious, head on over to our friend Wikipedia and indulge.

If you can get past the inherent tragedy that this film brings to mind, They All Laughed is a gem of a film.

That being said, we're down to two. Next week, Hepburn heads to the small screen for Love Among Thieves.

Audrey Hepburn Sundays

Posted by Danny

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